My Film Of The Fortnight – When We Were Kings
September 18, 2012
By: Gabby Ferro
This documentary follows underdog Muhammad Ali in the lead up to his “Rumble in the Jungle” with boxing giant George Foreman. Ali was fighting to re-claim his title as heavy weight champion of the world from champion Foreman. The 1966 documentary shows both fighters as they prepare for the fight that occurred in Zaire, which is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
With the Olympics bringing a lot of attention to boxers, particularly watching the British gold medalists becoming somewhat champions and idols of the sport, it is an interesting time to learn about the history of boxers. This documentary has fantastic narration and is brilliantly filmed and though all of the film is well made, nothing can beat the magnitude of Ali himself. He is such a fascinating character he truly makes the film.
Ali is bursting with life, extremely charismatic, handsome and highly articulate. He was constantly streaming poetry about how magnificent he is in comparison to Foreman. With gems such as “I wrestled with an alligator, that’s right. I wrestled with an alligator. I tussled with a whale. I have handcuffed lightening, throw thunder in jail” and “Last night I cut the light off in my bedroom, hit the switch, was in the bed before the room was dark”. His quick, sharp intelligence and the way he manages to command a room, and have everyone in it absorbing every detail of his presence, is just incredible. You really get a sense of the man; here he is a highly inspirational sports hero. I have never seen such a person and it really goes to show there will never be another Ali.
Not only does he have a fighting spirit, but his political opinions are also conveyed with the utmost passionate, it is no wonder that the locals took him in the way they did. As he lands in the city of Zaire, in the weeks leading up to the match, there are mobs of locals, giving him a huge ovation. They saw him as a hero and a representative of their people. This was mainly due to his brave political stance against the Vietnam War, before the protests about the war had even begun. He refused conscription into the American Army and stated, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong, no Viet Cong ever called me nigger”. This stance made him unpopular with mainstream Americans, he lost his title of heavy weight champion of the world through it, but very popular with the people of Zaire, as it showed he had principles, stood up for what he believed in and was not to bullied into anything he thought was wrong.
There is some great music as both James Brown and B. B King came over for the concert, which was held in Zaire, for publicity in the lead up to the fight. After the thrilling fight the documentary shows more of Ali’s political side. He praises Africans saying that they have a dignity that they do not have in America. He goes onto explain the problems he wishes to address in African American communities where questions of identity are addressed.
This is an important piece of film as it documents one of sports true heroes. Ali was someone who had such spirit as well as fight, intelligence as well as charisma, that should not be forgotten and is a joy to watch.
Please feel free to share your views on the film in the comment section below.